Where are you from, Stranger? Having a sense of place provides us with a tangible descriptor of our own selves and the people we meet. This sense of place quite often applies to many things we experience in our lives. It gives us a reference point and a sense of commonality which allows us to to readily identify with one another. The language we speak or the peculiar or unique accents of our speech allows us to recognize that we come from a particular place.
Wine, too, shares a reference to place that is similar to own own. For wine, "place," or "terroir" is very important, and the term "terroir" refers to the distinctive characteristics of the fruit grown and transformed into wine from a particular place. Can you tell if the wine you taste comes from the old or new world? Possibly France or Spain, or is it a wine grown and produced in California? Can you describe the clues that your wine expresses?
I recently had the pleasure of observing five master sommelier describe wines "blind." When I say "blind" what I mean is that the master sommelier would taste the wines and then describe and identify these wines without any prior knowledge about any of them. I especially enjoyed the deductive processes of these wine masters and I would like to share a valuable lesson I learned from one of them. During one of the blind tastings the master sommelier lifted his glass of red wine and said, " I can see that I do not have a white wine here." Brilliant comedy, thought I, somewhat sarcastically. But then I was soon amazed because each of the masters, employing their powers of deduction, were able to correctly name the varietal, vintage and origin of the wine.
As we head into the Holidays, which oftentimes calls us back to our own origins, what does our sense of place mean to us? Has our "terroir" shaped our character, and if so, how? Certainly, our environment has some impact on our personality. How would you go about describing your home? I suppose describing a wine's "character" (dark or light, heavy or thin, fragrant or flinty and so forth and so on) illustrates the importance of terroir that a winemaker takes into consideration when attempting to produce a fine wine. Thus terroir is the foundation that crafts the basic character of a wine such that allows us to eventually learn how to distinguish the differences between a Cabernet Sauvignon grown in California with those grown in Bordeaux, France. So lift your glass with a smile because everyone like every wine comes from somewhere.
Recently, a "mystery" shopper was set loose upon a Bay Area wine country with $1200.00 to spend on wine from the various winery tasting rooms. The shopper could only buy wine if they were asked by the tasting room staff to purchase. After a weekend of many winery tasting rooms only $200.00 of $1200.00 was spent.
Do you expect to purchase wine at each of the winery tasting rooms that you visit? Do you expect to be asked to purchase wine or would that turn you off? The art of the "ask" seems to me to be essential for a successful tasting room. Regardless of all the wine tasting etiquette rules, which we list later in another article, the tasting room is the primary direct-to-wine consumer outlet.
The tasting room supplies the wine lover and adventurer a place to experience the winery's wines, hospitality and story. And who doesn't love a good story. Wine lovers use review sites to share their experiences and to read about the experiences of others. Thus, the tasting room becomes the single most important sales and marketing direct-to-wine lover opportunity that a winery possesses. I appreciate it when the hospitality staff invites me to purchase or to join their wine club. And yet in my experience I am surprised how many winery tasting room staff fail to not only ask me to purchase their wine but fail to even mention their wine club.
I understand the reluctance of some people to want to avoid being pushy, however I would encourage winery owners to attempt to measure their success in selling wine to their guests. Wine lovers come to the tasting room for the experience and to purchase wine because of the relationship they form with the winery. When a guest visits a winery they are looking for wine to purchase. The question is will they purchase from your tasting room or the winery down the road? And in my opinion, if you and the tasting room staff have entertained your guests, simply ask for the wine order, and you will in most cases obtain a sale. A sale in your tasting room is a win-win for you and the guest.
An Italian proverb states; “Old wine and friends improve with age.”
Is it wine tastes better with friends or friends are better with wine?
Friendships give us a healthy sense of community. After all, we are communal beings. We rely upon each other to both thrive and survive. I call this "surthrival". Every day we interact in some manner with each other directly or indirectly. Even in finding solitutde, it is near impossible not to experience the hand of another fellow humans efforts being present in our life's experiences. Wine reinforces this concept. Fine wine like good art and poetry is carefully crafted both by nature and mankind. Fine wine enhances our abilities to socialize, sympathize and celebrate our lives together. Wine provides a common experience throughout many of our most memorable shared experiences.
Recently, a new friend shared with me an interesting adage that opened my mind to contemplate a new way for me to appreciate the wines I taste. My new friend, Nick Liang, a very talented Sommelier shared this insight in reference to the aging of a wine. Many wines available are wines that are only three to four years old. Nick shared the wine adage in the form of a question, "what kind of conversation does one tend to have with a three or four year old?"
The wine Nick and I shared that afternoon was marvelous. It was a 2008 Steven Kent Lineage. An amazingly delicious and well balanced Bordeaux blend that begged for a sumptuous juicy roast duck or fillet Mignon. Nick proceeded to outline how he would age this marvelous wine. First, Nick plans on purchasing a couple cases of Steven Kent Lineage for himself. He plans to open a bottle every year for the first four or five years. Nick will then wait 8 years and open a bottle or two of Steven Kent Lineage each year after that to determine how this wine matured. I hope on some of those occasions that Nick will invite me to dinner. In this busy busy society and culture of ours how rare it is to find friends. Friends like wines are in themselves treasures. Our experiences with many friends highlight our life's journey and even though time steadily passes, our friendships grow more valuable and dear to us. Good wines are similar and for those of us with the patience to let our wines mature, we may be treated to possible treasures. Treasures that can be shared with our family and friends....
The wine-bar, also known as a Bodega, Vinothek, Enoteca or Oenoheque offers unique experiences to the wine lover. Oenophiles (wine lovers) appreciate a venue that caters to those who enjoy wines and socialization. There are some wine-bars that also offer gourmet beers. The wine-bar experience exhalts the passion and intellectual stimulation associated with wine. The cozy and charming atmosphere of a wine-bar offers a more pleasant and laid-back alternative to the bar scene. The wine-bar lends itself to a good socializing environment with a less crowded feel and more intimate appeal than the average bar lounge. In addition to these advantages, many wine-bars feature wine education and the ability to purchase bottles and cases of wine on "a taste before you buy basis." Wine-bars reduce or eliminate the sense of intimidation that many people feel when confronted with a restaurant wine list while trying to order the best wine for their dining experience suited to their budget. Need to plan a party with great wine pairings? Most wine-bars offer resources to assist you.
What is the difference between a wine-bar and a restaurant?
The Food. Many wine-bars offer small plates and other delicacies. Wine-bars do not offer a full menu kitchen, nor a full bar menu. Wine-bars offer a much larger selection of wines BTG (by the glass) or BTT (by the taste) then traditional restaurants. The access to a wide variety of wines from many different wine regions and wineries at a reasonable cost provides a unique opportunity to learn and enjoy the subtle differences and nuances of various wines and the wines' corresponding varietals.
Wine-bars in the United States are growing rapidly in popularity. The challenge is finding them easily. So far, I have not found a wine-bar directory that works. Seeing a real need, SignatureWines.com decided to build one for us. If you have a wine-bar that is not listed here at SignatureWines.com please feel free to add the venue to our wine-bar directory. Together our wine lover's community can enjoy the first functional wine-bar directory.
I believe a wine-bar directory is important because wine-bars offer a much different social and culinary experience to the oenophile. Wine-bars attract as a general rule gregarious friendly people that appreciate discovering new wines and wine experiences. Making new friends while enjoying the fellowship of established friendships over a glass or flight of wines builds a better community. Over wine, conversation flows easily. Wine-bars furnish a very enjoyable way of meeting new people. So raise your glass to the wine-bar and make sure to either list or review your favorite wine-bar here at Signaturewines.com....
Greetings my fellow Oenophiles, I must admit my curiosity was piqued when I heard about the "mystical exlir" designated as: 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon. The distinctive bottle called an Ampoule looks like some science fiction weaponry from the movies "BLADE" or " THE UNDERWORLD" of vampire genre lore.
I have never visited Penfolds. I have tried some of their offerings in the past. Unfortunately, at the time I tried them, my inner oenophile was asleep so I have no clear recollection of my Penfolds tasting experience. However, the $168,000.00 Aussie dollar price tag of this "Wine Art" certainly caught my attention. Although, I believe the people at Penfold's should raise the price to $186,000 to correspond to the speed of light.
Currently, I have not the budgetary means to personally enjoy this Penfold's largesse. So, I decided to discover what the cost per drop was of this wine. I discovered that a 750 ml bottle contains approximately 15,000 drops of wine. Thus this "little beauty" will cost $11.20 per drop on a cold day.
I imagine myself dinning out with friends enjoying a sumptuous steak dinner with all of its accoutrements. The sommelier dressed in their most formal attire complete with white gloves waits patiently for all of us to tilt our heads upwards with longing eyes to recieve the perfectly placed drop of wine on our extended tongues. "Oh joy" is this the future, wine by the drop? I applaud Penfolds, a upscale winery from the "Land Down Under" in their ability to create such a great PR campaign. They have created a delicious paradox for these times. Do I celebrate their marketing and vision? Or do I frown? I only hope that Penfold's commits itself to philanthropic endeavors that relieve the suffering of the hungry....